House panel issues show cause order to 3 CA justices over detention case

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on good government and public accountability voted to issue a show cause order to the 3 Court of Appeals (CA) justices who ordered the provisional release of the Ilocos Norte officials who are detained at the lower chamber.

With a unanimous vote on Tuesday, June 20, the House panel voted to order CA Special 4th Division Acting Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz as well as justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela to explain why they should not be held in contempt for their release order.  

The Ilocos Norte officials who have been detained for 3 weeks are: 

The 3 CA justices ordered their release on June 9, but the House has refused to recognize the court’s ruling thrice. Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas argued the CA does not have an authority over the House’s power to cite resource persons in committee hearings in contempt. (READ: 'Mastermind' muzzling Ilocos Norte execs in House probe, says Fariñas

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even called Cruz, Sorongon, and Valenzuela as “idiots.”

The CA then issued a show cause order against Alvarez and House Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali to explain why they should not be cited in contempt by the court. 

During the hearing on Tuesday, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali moved for the panel to issue a counter order against the CA justices. 

“I am constrained to also move that we require the 3 justices of the CA who issued this resolution and order to be equally required to show cause by this committee so that we'll now be able to better understand the powers of the 3 independent but co-equal branches of government,” said Umali. 

His motion was seconded by Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Doy Leachon. 

Alvarez himself mulls filing disbarment cases against the 3 CA justices, a move welcomed by Cruz as an opportunity to show that  they were just doing their job. (READ: 'Emotional' Speaker Alvarez 'must know the limits of his power' – CA justice)

"We found that the writ should be issued. Again, if we falter because of some threats, that will show our weakness as a magistrate. And as I have said a while ago, let justice be done though the heavens fall. If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court (SC),” Cruz said during his interview before the Judicial and Bar Council for a vacancy at the SC on Monday.

On Tuesday, the House once again refused to release the 6 Ilocos Norte officials despite their tearful appeals before the lawmakers. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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